Wednesday, May 28, 2014

An Agenda for the New EAM

This is the second essay I wrote in Economic Times on the new government's foreign policy, published on May 27.  Though rumors suggested that Sushma Swaraj would be the new EAM, it was not confirmed until Tuesday morning.  On Wednesday, Dr. Ashley Tellis wrote an open letter to the new EAM, which also makes interesting reading.  He stresses economic diplomacy agenda more than I did in my piece but there are some points on which our suggestions are similar.  Other interesting pieces included a couple by Dan Twining (here and here), a couple by C. Raja Mohan (here, here and here), and one by my CIPOD colleague Happymon Jacob.  Many more analyses out there of course, but these are the ones I think are must reads.

With Modi's Stress on Foreign Policy, Task Cut Out for External Affairs Minister

The new external affairs minister (EAM) has a long list of foreign policy challenges and very little time to lose. Over the past several years, Indian diplomacy has been hamstrung by ideological blinkers of another age, domestic political interference in foreign policy, and glaring institutional weaknesses. The new EAM needs to move with some alacrity in addressing these problems before they inflict more damage to Indian foreign policy.

Pragmatic Partner

First, EAM has to get right some key global partnerships. On top of that list is improving India's relationship with Washington that has suffered because of a number of irritants, the most recent of which was the unfortunate Devyani Khobragade incident. It is important that the EAM cut loose the Third Worldist ideological tendencies that have been binding Indian foreign policy and examine India's interests dispassionately.

What Should Modi's Foreign Policy Be?

I wrote two essays on the new Narendra Modi government's foreign policy.  This one appeared on Monday, May 26, the day Modi took the oath of office, in the Economic Times.  The second one appeared on Tuesday, and I'll shortly post that too.

Modi Must Drive Foreign Policy back to the Path of Realism

Narendra Modi has hit the ground running in terms of foreign policy by inviting the leaders of the SAARC countries to his swearing-in ceremony. Leaders of many SAARC countries will be attending, but much of the focus is likely to be on the India-Pakistan dynamic. This is a move reminiscent of AB Vajpayee's Lahore bus trip, which sought to remake Indo-Pak ties.

But Modi will be well-advised to remember what followed that particular meeting between Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif and an Indian leader. There are limits to what a weak civilian leadership in Pakistan can deliver in talks with India. This is not to suggest that Modi should not reach out to Pakistan. But engagement should not be the kind of one-sided affair that it has been over the last 15 years.